Sometimes babies cry, and sometimes they cry relentlessly for hours every day. Colic, high needs, or whatever a parent decides to call it — this is a time when humankind’s coping mechanisms are put through the gauntlet. I’ve had two passionate criers, and these are the strategies that helped me be here today with 99% of my sanity.
Things to do when you have a little bundle of screams
Watch a bunch of those artsy foreign flicks
Your baby is screaming, so you probably can’t hear most of your favorite shows and movies. Have you heard of the Five S’s? I think the sixth should be “subtitles.” You can read subtitles, swaddle, swing and shush at the same time. During my son’s first 12 weeks, I watched every Almodovar film then in existence.
Take your baby somewhere loud
I mean LOUD. One of the only things crying babies actually like is noise louder than themselves. I stuck big ear muffs on my colicky babe and took him to a demolition derby. Those were the most contented 2 hours of his life thus far. And I was out! Among people! On top of its quieting affect, loud places are awesome because people are less likely to look at you with “Get that baby home” eyes if your baby wails.
Scream words your mother hated
Anything that feels funny and a little devious works. My mom always hated a certain four-letter F-word… fart. So every once in a while, barely audible above the baby’s screams, I would shout—FART. FAAAART! Fartfartfart. I was able to smile at myself. I was able to remember that I’m a grownup who can choose to scream fart and who can choose to handle the cry-a-thon with patience.
Call people during the screaming
Let them hear your baby scream. Let them tell you “Holy crap” and “It gets better.” Sometimes being understood is the best medicine in frustrating situations.
Have a reason you think your baby is crying and use it as the why-is-he-crying conversation ender
Listening to people postulate all the pains that could be making your baby cry can be frightening and demoralizing. If you want to listen to what might be wrong, you can ask, but you’re likely to get tired of hearing those suggestions everywhere you go. I liked stating, “Some babies cry more than others. We think he’s just really passionate about it.” The end.
Adopt a 24/7 self-soothing strategy
Drinking a cup of chamomile when I was already shaking was worthless. I had to take on a round-the-clock self-calming strategy in order to stave off the panic attacks I would have during especially long crying jags. Think preventative medicine over treatment. This was, of course, totally antithetical to what I wanted. I wanted coffee to help me make it through the day. I wanted to take advantage of my son’s sleep to get a million things done. What I needed was my body in its calmest state and to use those quiet minutes for self-care.
Dress up your baby and yourself for pictures and videos
If you have an especially “high needs” baby, the first few months of life will likely be an immemorial haze once the crying waves recede. At 8 months old, our high-needs baby was suddenly the most delightful thing in the world. I was having a hard time taking part in the delight because I was hanging on to the guilt of resentment in those first months. I felt like I missed the beginning of his life while I was busy trying to keep both of us from crying. Thankfully, the pictures and videos of his non-crying minutes helped me get over the guilt and hard memories. I could look back at him dressed as a dinosaur, then in a Santa Suit, then wrapped up on New Year’s in his favorite swaddling blanket… and remember that I was intent on enjoying his infancy despite the difficulties. Then I could finally look forward to the rest of his babyhood.
Ed note: my son also had colic, and we ended up taking him to a chiropractor. After 3 mini (and free! Our guy was rad!) sessions, the colic went totally away. If you’re experiencing a colicy/high-needs baby, it may be an option worth looking into. — Stephanie